A former NATO general has warned that the alliance is not ready to engage in a war with Russia should its invasion of Ukraine turn into a “worst case” scenario.
General Sir Richard Shirreff, who served as the deputy supreme allied commander Europe between 2011 and 2014, said the success of Ukraine’s counteroffensive had been “vindication” of the military support for Kyiv, particularly from the U.S. and U.K.
The Briton said that could “send a powerful message to the wobbly nations” in the alliance about backing Kyiv, “particularly the Germans who have been utterly pathetic.”
But in his call for NATO members to “take the gloves off” and “ramp up” the supply of weaponry to Kyiv, Shirreff feared that the alliance was not in a position to act, should the war spill beyond the borders of Ukraine.
“The way to manage the risk of escalation is for NATO to be prepared for the worst case and that is still not happening,” he told Newsweek. “When I mean the worst case, the worst case is NATO at war with Russia.”
Since the start of Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion on February 24, the U.S. and its NATO allies have tried to tread the fine line between giving military help to Kyiv without escalating the conflict.
Russian state media and some politicians in Moscow pointing to the military support that NATO is giving Kyiv have already framed the conflict as one between the alliance and Moscow.
Direct NATO involvement would only happen if one of its member states faced attack, triggering its principle of collective defense, Article 5, a predicament Shirreff said that the alliance is unprepared for.
“Being ready for the worst-case means mobilizing reserves. It means rebuilding lost capabilities thrown away in years of defense cuts.
“It means getting industry tooled up to produce artillery shells, anti-tank resolves, anti-aircraft missiles,” he said. “Not only to replace stocks handed over to the Ukrainians, but also to start building up our own stocks because we are hollowed out.”
“Tick in box for certain NATO nations providing weaponry,” he said referring to the assistance given to Kyiv. “Tick in box for the statement made by [alliance chief Jens] Stoltenberg after the NATO summit about the commitment to Ukraine and the defeat of Russia.”